5 Ways to Steal Like An Artist

T.K. Coleman
Aug 22, 2016 · 8 min read

One thing I’ve learned in my brief career: It’s the side projects that really take off. By side projects I mean the stuff that you thought was just messing around. Stuff that’s just play. That’s actually the good stuff. That’s when the magic happens.” -Page 65

People often ask me “What are some great books to buy?” My response is usually “The ones you’ll actually read.” Doing a bunch of activities that you think are important will almost always be less impactful than doing the stuff that genuinely fires you up. It’s hard to be great at the stuff that you have to work hard just to tolerate.

“If you have two or three real passions, don’t feel like you have to pick and choose between them. Don’t discard. Keep all your passions in your life….The thing is, you can cut off a couple passions and only focus on one, but after a while, you’ll start to feel phantom limb pain. I spent my teenage years obsessed with songwriting and playing in bands, but then I decided i needed to focus on just writing, so I spent half a decade hardly playing any music at all. the phantom limb got worse and worse.

About a year ago I started playing in a band again. Now, I’m starting to feel whole. And the crazy thing is, rather than the music taking away from my writing, I find it interacting with my writing and making ti better — -I can tell that new synapses in my brain are firing, and new connections are being made.” -Pg 68–71

James Altucher has a neat concept I like called “Masters of the intersection.” The basic idea is that you can become great by taking 2–3 things you really like and becoming the best in the world at the intersection between those two things. This allows you to achieve greatness not by rising to the top of an existing craft, but by creating an entirely new hybrid craft.

“If I’d waited to know who I was or what I was about before I started “being creative,” well, I’d still be sitting around trying to figure myself out instead of making things. In my experience, it’s in the act of making things and doing work that we figure out who we are.” Pg 27

So many people get stuck on things like “being a writer” or “being an entrepreneur” and they never get around to getting things done because they’re too busy trying to figure out if their ontological state gives them permission to do the thing they want to do.

“Always be reading. Go to the library. There’s magic in being surrounded by books. Get lost in the stacks. Read bibliographies. it’s not in the book you start with, it’s the book that book leads you to.” -Pg 20

Books are written by people. That makes them personal, not impersonal. Reading books is like hanging out with a person except for the fact that you can still learn from this person even if they don’t like you. Books are the cure for artistic solipsism. They keep you from approaching the creative process as if your perspective or style is the only one that exists. Everything that you take for granted as being certain, fixed, impossible, ugly, difficult, or boring is seen in an entirely different way by someone else. Avail yourself of those perspectives.

“Nothing is original. The writer Jonathan Lethem has said that when people call something “original,” nine out of ten times they just don’t know the references or the original sources involved. What a good artist understands is that nothing comes from nowhere. All creative work builds on what came before. Every new idea is just a mashup or a remix of one or more previous ideas.” -Pgs 7–8

Originality is how you uniquely put things together. You didn’t create the alphabet, yet you have a unique way of using language that differs from your peers. When a musician composes a song, they don’t feel pressured to invent the notes on the piano or to create a new instrument. They can simply work with what’s already there and put their own unique twist on it.

The Mission

A network of business & tech podcasts designed to accelerate learning. Selected as “Best of 2018” by Apple. Mission.org

T.K. Coleman

Written by

Co-Founder & Education Director at @discoverPraxis. Faculty at @feeonline.

The Mission

A network of business & tech podcasts designed to accelerate learning. Selected as “Best of 2018” by Apple. Mission.org